Pt I: Make it easy


Not everyone can commit to volunteering on a very regular basis. There are plenty of organizations that require their volunteers to commit to strict schedules for long periods of time, and they have good reasons for doing so.

But many of your volunteers will be adults with full-time jobs, or college students with full-time school, so finding any free hours at all might not be easy. Being able to utilize those free hours is crucial.

And the beauty of one-on-one tutoring is that a great deal can happen even in one 2- or 3-hour session. You could coach a student to finish the first writing assignment he's ever finished. You could facilitate a breakthrough with a student learning English — you could be the first to explain gerunds! And no matter what the subject matter is, you’re shining a light on that student’s work, you’re making an authentic human connection, child to community member — and that just plain feels good to everyone involved. So it can be radical, and the effect can be profound.

You might only see a certain volunteer once a month. But that tutor might make a huge impact in that one session, so don’t discount or forget these every-so-often volunteers.

The other aspect of making it easy to volunteer is to respond quickly and warmly to a potential volunteer’s offers and inquiries. A common mistake that a nonprofit makes is unnecessarily delaying the turnaround time between when a volunteer signs up and when that volunteer is contacted and trained. Make this time as short as possible because that gap will be judged. If a potential volunteer signs up online and has to wait six weeks to hear back from you, that reflects poorly on your organization. It makes you look disorganized or aloof.

And of course, when that volunteer walks through the door, they should be met warmly and treated with kindness. You can’t do much without volunteers, so treat them like gold.